Are there any criticisms of the Summa Theologica within the Catholic Church?
Accusations of Denying the Immaculate Conception
Many have claimed that he wrote against the Immaculate Conception (cf. Summa Theologica III q. 27 "Of the Sanctification of the Blessed Virgin" and the editorial note at the top) and because of this, they claim his entire theology is flawed or outdated. For a defense of St. Thomas on this point, cf. Thomist Fr. Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.'s Reality: A Synthesis of Thomistic Thought ch. 37 Mariology", art. 3 "Mary's Sanctity," §1 "St. Thomas and the Immaculate Conception." (N.B.: The Immaculate Conception was not defined dogma in St. Thomas's time.)
Anti-Thomist Modernists and "New Theologians"
There are Modernist heretics like Henri Bouillard, S.J., who have criticized St. Thomas's theology as being outdated because, as the Thomist Fr. Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., describes it in the beginning of his Essence & Topicality of Thomism:
Certain souls [like Fr. Bouillard] today think that “a theology which is not current is a false theology” and that the theology of Saint Thomas in some of its important parts—e.g., when it conceives sanctifying or habitual Grace as a “form”—is only an application of the notions of Aristotelian physics, of the distinction between matter and form. And it is added: “Renouncing Aristotelian physics, modern thought has also deserted the notions and schemes that have value only for Aristotelian physics. Because theology continues to offer meaning to the spirit and can fertilize and progress with it, it is necessary that it renounces these notions.”
The theology of Saint Thomas, however, from this point of view, would no longer be current. And elsewhere it is also said: “A theology that is not current is therefore false.”
But why, then, would the Church recommend the doctrine of Saint Thomas to the point of insisting that professors of philosophy and theology teach this discipline “ad Angelici Doctoris rationem, doctrinam et principia, eaque sancte teneant”? [“according to the arguments, doctrine, and principles of the Angelic Doctor, to which they must religiously adhere”] ( Codice Canonico, c. 1366). [cf. 1983 Code of Canon Law, can. 252 §3: “…students are to learn to penetrate more intimately the mysteries of salvation, especially with St. Thomas as a teacher.…”]
“The Christian truth, it is observed, is stuck in contingent notions and schemes which determine its rational structure. It is not possible to isolate it from them. It is not rendered independent from a system of notions but changing into another. History—nevertheless—does not lead to relativism. It permits the grasping, in the bosom of theological evolution, of an absolute. Not an absolute of description, but an absolute of affirmation. If the notions, methods, systems change; the affirmations that they contain remain, even if they are expressed in other categories.” [Bouillard’s condemned 1941 thesis Conversion et grâce chez S. Thomas d’Aquin]
Fr. Louis Bouyer, a Neo-Modernist, is another anti-Thomist.
The Nouvelle Théologie (New Theology) is an anti-Thomist movement which Pope Pius XII condemned in his encyclical Humani Generis (cf. "The structure of the encyclical Humani Generis" by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., the encyclical's ghostwriter). Nouvelle Théologie—New Theology: Inheritor of Modernism, Precursor of Vatican II (2010) by Jürgen Mettepenningen is a good overview of battle waged between the Thomists and the New Theologians in ca. 1940s.
Accusations of Misogyny
Individual woman as "defective and misbegotten [deficiens et occasionatum]"
Some criticize St. Thomas for being misogynistic, e.g., when he says, in Summa Theologica I q. 92 a. 1 ("Whether the woman should have been made in the first production of things?") ad 1:
As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten [deficiens et occasionatum], for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence;
"Occasionatum" means "caused accidentally," i.e., caused besides the intention of nature.
however, he continues:
On the other hand, as regards human nature in general, woman is not misbegotten [occasionatum], but is included in nature's intention as directed to the work of generation [i.e., procreation].
In response to the objection (arg. 1) that God "should not have made woman" because she "would be an occasion of sin to man," St. Thomas replies (ad 3) that
If God had deprived the world of all those things which proved an occasion of sin, the universe would have been imperfect.
Thus, women perfect God's creation. From this alone it's clear that St. Thomas is a philogynist.
"in man [homine] the discretion of reason predominates"
In that same article (Summa Theologica I q. 92 a. 1), St. Thomas writes (arg. 2 & ad 2), in the context of Gn. 3:16: "Thou shalt be under the man's power":
…woman is naturally of less strength and dignity than man; "for the agent is always more honorable than the patient," as Augustine says (Gen. ad lit. xii, 16). … [W]oman [femina] is naturally subject to man [viro], because in man [homine] the discretion of reason predominates. Nor is inequality among men [i.e., among humans] excluded by the state of innocence, as we shall prove (Question , Article 3).
This passage is often misinterpreted as meaning that men are more rational than women; however, it's not so clear from the Latin, where St. Thomas uses two different words (vir = man/husband; homo = human, male or female) that in English are both translated as "man." A better translation would be:
[W]oman is naturally subject to man/husband [viro], because in mankind/humans [homine] the discretion of reason predominates.
In other words: It it is reasonable, to both males and females, that there be an inequality and thus order regarding the relation between males and females.
This is in accord with what St. Thomas says in the body ("I answer that…") of that article, where he discusses how in the plants and animals the distinction and inequality between the sexes is not as pronounced as it is in humans, and this is due to humans being rational creatures.
Accusations that St. Thomas's Argument for a Male-only Priesthood is Misogynistic
St. Thomas, in Summa Theologica suppl. q. 39 a. 1 ("Whether the female sex is an impediment to receiving Orders?") c., writes:
Certain things are required in the recipient of a sacrament as being requisite for the validity of the sacrament, and if such things be lacking, one can receive neither the sacrament nor the reality of the sacrament. Other things, however, are required, not for the validity of the sacrament, but for its lawfulness, as being congruous to the sacrament; and without these one receives the sacrament, but not the reality of the sacrament. Accordingly we must say that the male sex is required for receiving Orders not only in the second, but also in the first way. Wherefore even though a woman were made the object of all that is done in conferring Orders, she would not receive Orders, for since a sacrament is a sign, not only the thing, but the signification of the thing, is required in all sacramental actions; thus it was stated above (Question , Article ) that in Extreme Unction it is necessary to have a sick man, in order to signify the need of healing. Accordingly, since it is not possible in the female sex to signify eminence of degree, for a woman is in the state of subjection [cf. Gen. 3:16], it follows that she cannot receive the sacrament of Order.
The same criticisms of misogyny levied against St. Thomas here are also levied against St. Paul in, e.g., 1 Tim. 2:12, "I suffer not a woman to teach (in the Church), nor to use authority over the man," and Eph. 5, where St. Paul says that wives be subject to their husbands.
Other Instances Where St. Thomas Demonstrates He is not Misogynistic
Man and woman both created in God's image
Summa Theologica I q. 93 a. 4 ("Whether the image of God is found in every [hu]man?"):
Objection 1: It would seem that the image of God is not found in every man. For the Apostle says that "man is the image of God, but woman is the image [Vulg. glory] of man" (1 Cor. 11:7). Therefore, as woman is an individual of the human species, it is clear that every individual is not an image of God.
St. Thomas's reply:
Reply to Objection 1: The image of God, in its principal signification, namely the intellectual nature, is found both in man and in woman. Hence after the words, "To the image of God He created him," it is added, "Male and female He created them" (Gn. 1:27). Moreover it is said "them" in the plural, as Augustine (Gen. ad lit. iii, 22) remarks, lest it should be thought that both sexes were united in one individual. But in a secondary sense the image of God is found in man, and not in woman: for man is the beginning and end of woman; as God is the beginning and end of every creature. So when the Apostle had said that "man is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man," he adds his reason for saying this: "For man is not of woman, but woman of man; and man was not created for woman, but woman for man."
For more information on this, see Dr. Pia de Solenni's award-winning book A hermeneutic of Aquinas's Mens through a sexually differentiated epistemology: Towards an understanding of woman as imago Dei (2003); he is a critic of the "New Feminism."
Adam's sin alone, not Eve's, is the reason Original Sin passes onto his children.
Answering the question "Whether if Eve, and not Adam, had sinned, their children would have contracted original sin?" (Summa Theologica I-II q. 81 a. 5), St. Thomas writes (c.):
The solution of this question is made clear by what has been said. For it has been stated (a. 1) that original sin is transmitted by the first parent in so far as he is the mover in the begetting of his children: wherefore it has been said (a. 4) that if anyone were begotten materially only, of human flesh, they would not contract original sin. Now it is evident that in the opinion of philosophers, the active principle of generation is from the father, while the mother provides the matter. Therefore original sin, is contracted, not from the mother, but from the father: so that, accordingly, if Eve, and not Adam, had sinned, their children would not contract original sin: whereas, if Adam, and not Eve, had sinned, they would contract it.
Thus St. Thomas in no way blames women, like Adam did, for sin.
Why the Second Person of the Holy Trinity became a man and not a woman
& St. Thomas's love for the Blessed Virgin
St. Thomas also addresses the question of why the Second Person of the Holy Trinity became a man and not a woman, in Summa Theologica III q. 31 a. 4 ("Whether the matter of Christ's body should have been taken from a woman?"):
Objection 1: It would seem that the matter of Christ's body should not have been taken from a woman. For the male sex is more noble [nobilior] than the female. But it was most suitable that Christ should assume that which is perfect in human nature. Therefore it seems that He should not have taken flesh from a woman but rather from man: just as Eve was formed from the rib of a man.
to which he replied:
Reply to Objection 1: The male sex is more noble [nobilior] than the female, and for this reason He took human nature in the male sex. But lest the female sex should be despised, it was fitting that He should take flesh of a woman. Hence Augustine says (De Agone Christ. xi): "Men, despise not yourselves: the Son of God became a man: despise not yourselves, women; the Son of God was born of a woman."
This is a very balanced teaching that is in accord with Holy Scripture; however, some anti-Thomists still think it is misogynistic.
Also, St. Thomas had a very good relationship with his five biological sisters, whom he taught from a young age and converted; he convinced one of them to become a religious.
St. Thomas's Views on Sex
Some have the misconception that St. Thomas is against sexual intercourse or even marriage; however, his teaching on sex is fully inline with Catholic teaching: sex that is for the procreation and education of children is good and even virtuous, sex passes on original sin, and it is sinful if sought for its pleasure alone (thus, he's against contraception):
I q. 98 a. 2 ("Whether in the state of innocence there would have been generation by coition?")
II-II q. 152 a. 4 ("Whether virginity is more excellent than marriage?")
III (suppl.) q. 41 a. 3-4 ("Whether the marriage act is always sinful?" & "Whether the marriage act is meritorious?")
III (suppl.) q. 49 a. 4-6 ("Whether the marriage act is excused by the aforesaid goods [fidelity, offspring, sacrament]?" & "Whether the marriage act can be excused without the marriage goods?" & "Whether it is a mortal sin for a man to have knowledge of his wife, with the intention not of a marriage good but merely of pleasure?")